By on June 30th, 2017. This post currently has no responses.

Duke admits faked data “potentially affected” grant applications

From Retraction Watch (which makes my list of “must read” blogs):

“A former researcher at Duke University has admitted to faking data that allegedly were used to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants.

Duke has also admitted that it knew Erin Potts-Kant, a pulmonary scientist, faked data, but it’s unclear whether that was discovered prior to using those data to apply for grants, as a lawsuit alleges.

The admissions come from court documents submitted by Potts-Kant, her supervisor — former Duke researcher William Michael Foster — and Duke itself, responding to allegations in a whistleblower suit that says they defrauded the government.

Regular readers may recall that Joseph Thomas, a former colleague of Potts-Kant and Foster, has filed a False Claims Act suit against the three defendants on behalf of the U.S. government. The responses, submitted separately by the three defendants, are the latest development in what could be a landmark case for research misconduct. The lawsuit has survived motions to dismiss and is moving through the discovery process, which is likely to reveal more than the defendants have already said.

The suit claims that Potts-Kant “knew that the reported research results in question were false and/or fabricated, having generated the results herself.” To which she responded (in writing):

“Defendant admits that she has generated experiment data that was altered.”

Later on, she responded:

“to the extent she altered experiment data, she knew the altered experiment data was false.” 

In addition, Duke has admitted that it found out about the fraud when Potts-Kant told an investigative committee about it. The pulmonary division launched an investigation in 2013 after discovering the embezzlement and Duke launched a formal scientific misconduct investigation in June 2013.

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An admission that there’s falsity of data in the context of research misconduct doesn’t in and of itself create False Claims Act liability.

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